By Matt Noonan
One month after announcing its 2020 season had been canceled, the University of Massachusetts has decided to reverse course and allow its football team an opportunity to play some games this fall, beginning as soon as next month.
The decision to return to the gridiron was announced earlier today and was based on the program’s “stringent COVID-19 safety protocols and rigorous testing regimen,” which has been in place since the student-athletes returned to the Amherst campus in June. Additionally, the school – and yes, the program, too – watched other schools and conferences announce they would be returning to the field over the past few weeks after initially deciding to cancel their respective season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
UMass has administered more than 1,800 coronavirus tests over the past 13 weeks with just two tests coming back positive. The school plans to continue testing its student-athletes, coaches, and staff members multiple times per week, and has the capacity to ramp up testing if needed to “meet additional opponent requirements in order to play games, if necessary.”
“Today is a great day for Massachusetts Football,” coach Walt Bell said, via today’s release about the Minutemen returning to the gridiron this fall. “Everyone associated with our program is excited to play football this fall.”
Bell would continue by adding that he and the program “are grateful to our campus leadership for supporting academic and competitive opportunities for our student-athletes and staff to do what they love in a safe manner.”
UMass was scheduled to compete against 12 teams this fall, but the expectation is their new schedule will consist of fewer teams. Dates and opponents will be announced at a later date and time, and the school will not permit fans at McGuirk Alumni Stadium this fall.